GENEVA, 24 – 26 JUNE, 2014
Given recent developments in Ukraine and similarities between the Ukrainian narrative and the one at the beginning of the 90’s in Bosnia and Herzegovina, an informal meeting was organised between activists from Ukraine and Bosnia and Herzegovina. I was one of three women from Bosnia who participated in this meeting and these are some of my impressions from the meeting.
The meeting was organised with the aim of exchanging experiences with regards to the situation in Ukraine and what we wanted to convene was how the experiences of women from Bosnia and Herzegovina can be applied and used in other war and post-war situations. Activists from Ukraine presented the current situation in the country, and the areas they showed most interest in was how to help with the registration of refugees and provide them with psychological help, how to establish communication between the government and activists in the field exposed to the war or those that are being displaced. They said that the Ukrainian government has thus far not provided adequate assistance, nor is it intervening. The displaced persons are being placed in summerhouses, while the aid in food is realised through negotiations with local businessmen. The activists from Bosnia presented their experiences and talked about the lessons they have learnt. Most interesting for Ukrainians was the experience in working in multi-ethnic communities, and how to work with young people on reconciliation. We also talked about economic empowerment of women and their participation in public and political life after signing of the peace agreement. They also showed interest in the organisation of the educational system. My impression was that the representatives from Ukraine were not fully aware of the complicated situation that Ukraine finds itself in, and that they do not consider the current situation as a war situation. They often said that their country was multi-ethnic and that ethnic war in such a context was not possible. We tried to bring closer to them the situation in Bosnia during the first days of the war that later grew into a multidimensional conflict, and how different interpretations and ‘truths’ are hampering political and societal progress of the country. We also tried to show the similarities between Ukraine and Bosnia and we talked about the fact that Ukraine is in the focus of major political and economic interests. However, the way I see it, the delegation from Ukraine did not at that moment demonstrate an understanding of the serious situation they find themselves in. I did not get the impression that activists from Ukraine that attended this meeting have a systematic approach towards the problems that are evident in their country, nor that they are familiar with the happenings in the rest of Europe and wider. I am of the opinion that the activists did not show they have developed mechanisms for action that are necessary for the situation Ukraine finds itself in. They asked questions about different problems, especially regarding refugees, but I think that the questions were far away from what awaits Ukraine, or from how they should act according to a predefined set of priorities. To summarise, a beginners syndrome of surprised people that overnight find themselves in a war situation.